Milwaukee Hip-Hop Round-Up: Kaylee Crossfire, KDS, LeanBeatz, Ralphael

Also: Dana Coppa, Ryan Oddity, Sydnee B, Genesis Renji

Jul. 20, 2017
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Milwaukee's rap scene has been in overdrive for the last couple of years, but we do our best to keep up with it. Once again we've rounded up our favorite singles, mixtapes, videos and odds and ends from the last few weeks for our periodic Milwaukee Hip-Hop Round-Up.

Kaylee Crossfire - "Damn Daddy"

It's no secret that women are grossly underrepresented in Milwaukee's rap scene. Few are working harder to fix that disparity than Kaylee Crossfire, an absolutely electric Milwaukee rapper who's hosting her third Female Takeover Showcase at The Point later this summer. The event is based on "female unity and not competition," she writes on Facebook, which is for the best, because it's hard to imagine anybody, of any gender, competing against Kaylee and emerging unscathed. She's one of the fiercest voices in the city, and in her latest video "Damn Daddy" she pairs her heated, caps-locked raps with some absolutely incredible choreography. Let's see your average mumble-into-a-microphone trap bro do that. 


Pinpointing the most overlooked rapper in the city is an impossible task—there's so much talent in this scene, and nearly all of it is overlooked or underrated. But if pressed, I could make a rock-solid case for KDS, whose debut album a year or so ago This Never Happened was so smart, so vital, it couldn't help but invite comparisons to the greats (Kendrick, Herbo, even Pac). He's followed it up with a trickle of new tracks, the latest of which makes me as excited to hear more from him as This Never Happened did. He's not a loud rapper, yet his voice is so commanding, so in control, that the entire track seems to orbit around it. Somebody in the scene's inner circle needs to send this guy an invite, stat. 

LeanBeatz - Fuel EP

Rapper/producer LeanBeatz's hyper-minimalist trap music isn't everybody's idea of what great rap sounds like, but even if it's not your cup of tea you've got to admire its economy. On his new Fuel EP, each verse is efficient, every beat is quick to pounce, and every song clocks under three minutes. This is a rapper who values his listeners' time, which is an increasingly rare quality in the Soundcloud age. The EP ends with an absolute knockout, "Showtime," which he paces like a great heist movie.  

Ralphael - "Drop It"

Like every artist affiliated with the Milwaukee label Whats Really Good Ent, Ralphael doesn't seem to have much of a following. His latest single, as of posting this, has about 24 streams on Soundcloud. There's no spinning those numbers; they're bad. But even if nobody's listening yet, Ralphael is making some damn catchy music. This one's a shameless earworm, taking generous inspiration from a certain O.T. Genasis song you can probably guess, and cutting it (so to speak) with a bit of that trap-flute sound that's been in vogue since Kodak Black's "Tunnel Vision." Does it deserve to make Ralphael a star? No, but it sure as hell deserves more than two dozen streams.

Ryan Oddity - "Till The End"/"Don't Hate Me When The Rain Goes Away"

Milwaukee singer/rapper Ryan Oddity has a sweet, Jeremih-ish voice and an ear for jazzy loops. It remains to be seen where he'll take this sound, but these tracks hint at two very different directions. "Till The End" is dreamy and romantic, "Don't Hate Me When The Rain Goes Away" is prickly and defensive, with some very Drake-y grievances about fake friends.

Genesis Renji - "Drown"/"SHARKS"

Both of these tracks are a few months old, but like almost everything Genesis Renji does, they're well worth hearing. Renji is making some of the most tense, demanding hip-hop in the city these days—heady, conceptual tracks that don't often extend a hand to the audience. "SHARKS" has an Ace Hood-ish intensity to it, while "Drown" reminds me of Schoolboy Q at his most mercurial.

Sydnee B - "Eastside"

A Milwaukee rapper with a GOOD Music aesthetic and Top 40 ambitions, Sydnee B has been growing a decent online following for himself. Next month he'll release a six song album called Forever Hold Your Peace, along with an ambitious, almost Tarantino-esque video for its first single "Eastside." The video won't come out until Aug. 4, but you can stream the song now.

Dana Coppafeel - "1 Time"

And finally, let's close with an old favorite. Veteran workhorse Dana Coppafeel has a gift for making rap that captures the vibe of golden age hip-hop but doesn't get so lost in the past that it forgets the 20 years of music that followed. His latest single "1 Time" finds him in his wheelhouse, over a beat so spiritually indebted to Midnight Marauders you half expect Phife to chime in with a verse at the two-minute mark. Coppa fills the track with his usual elastic wordplay. "Kill the alphabet at the letter U/ My aim's for the T, that means I'm ahead of you," he raps.


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